Red Cross goes after video game health packs

Has anyone been successfully prosecuted under the cited statute? Legislation is not law until the gavel falls. Just wondering, you know, what with our precedential legal system and all.

I remember looking at the patch dir one day when I was still working on NWN and there was a new texture for the healing kit. I asked why and was told that they had to remove the red cross from it.

The Red Cross symbol is a reversal of the Swiss flag which is a white cross on a red background, because it was founded by a Swiss bloke.

Jesus didn’t use a red cross as a symbol, he was nailed to a wooden one.

All the precedents I found (with a cursory search) involved web site registration. It was explicitly found in some papers describing Federal misdemeanors.

Do you have some reason to think that the law wouldn’t be upheld?

My understading is that this is the case; I’m not sure how international treaties affect the situation, though. But aside from that, video game manufacturers could probably make a good case that because 1) games have been using the symbol–with no complaint from the Red Cross–for decades, and 2) the symbol is used on countless first aid products that are neither sold nor endorsed by the Red Cross and has thus become ubiquitous with “first aid” in the eyes of the general public, that the symbol has passed into the public domain and no longer qualifies for protection.

Yeah, this issue has been lurking in the background for a while now. I think the problem is that a lot of companies have just assumed that the symbol was in the public domain by now, which of course it officially is not.

This is sort of related to the whole mess with gun manufacturers demanding that game companies obtain licenses to use their products in a title. Didn’t they learn anything from the whole Reese’s Pieces thing back in the 80s? Oh well, their loss.

  • Alan

I wonder if the Canadian Red Cross is just pressing for reform going forward or if they want game publishers to issue patches altering the graphics of existing games?

As one who is generally willing to give a hearing to those complaining about violence in videogames, I think the Red Cross’ argument in this case is silly. The health packs may be in violent games, but they nevertheless remain a symbol of good. Health is a good. The medpaks heal. Therefore the medpaks are a good. Q.E.D. If the medpaks caused you to lose health or die, then I suppose they’d have a point, but I’ve never played a game in which that was true.

I also wonder how much variation in the graphic would be needed to satisfy the requirements of the law. Would writing the word “health” inside the cross be enough to avoid infringement?

From the interview, they want it fixed going forwards.


That isn’t too bitchy then. No reason not to comply, medkits are for fairies anyhoo.

Can we go back to hearts, then? I liked Zelda.

No. The heart is a registered trademark of the American Heart Association.

Man, Hallmark is sooooo boned…

That is funny enough to deserve a ‘lol’ in my book.

Some first-aid kits I’ve seen are a white cross on a red background. Which, as noted earlier, is the Swiss flag not the Red Cross symbol.

Either that, or just the US Red Cross hasn’t decided to pursue these or anyone else using the image.

Shit. Mushrooms?

I’m thinking I might just cut to the chase and trademark everything–every conceivable, possible image…

Interestingly enough the latest three-finger-salute in CGM was lauding the trend in games away from heath packs. Call of Duty 2 and Perfect Dark Zero were no worse for not having them so maybe in a few years the point will be moot anyway.

Yeah, except some game developer somewhere probably has the concept of the Medic copyrighted.

That would probably be the people who made this game.

Not really. But it’s an extremely commonplace symbol (we’ve used it in published graphics without permission and without complaint). I can’t imagine them suddenly embarking on a war on illicit Red Crosses, even if they would win. The Red Cross doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation for money management as it is. So I can’t see them going Church of Scientology on the ass of something so cosmically irrelevant to their line of business.

Doesn’t the whole thing come over an knee-jerk “Huff Huff! You cant do that! Sputter!” outrage at someone putting their symbol in a VIOLENT GAME?

No, according to the Red Cross (who seem very reasonable at least in the interviews), they have around 100 violation cease-and-desists going on at any one time. Anytime they find out about a violation, they stop it.


Wow, that’s pretty scary. I wonder how much they spend on legal services.